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THE IMMORTALS OF MELUHA: REVIEW

The Immortals of Meluha: Part one of the trilogy
Warning: Spoilers
It would be unfair to say that this wasn't a good book. However, that is as far as I am willing to go. The plot line is interesting, the concept is strong and the protagonist holds his own well.But- and this is the fun part- there are several points that leave the reader wondering if she’s missing something.

The biggest issue for me with Immortals was the lack of antagonistic context. Or as K would say- Villain kidhar hai, boss? Holy wars for the triumph of good over evil are just dandy, but some of us would like to know who we’re fighting and why they suck so much before we’re on the battlefield. It’s just common courtesy, really. To be fair, this will be covered in Part Dos of the Trilogy so perhaps I nitpick. For me at least, this stuck out like a sore thumb.

The characters are a tough sell. Shiva is a likable fellow- if you leave behind all your preconceptions about how The Supreme Being should act in a given social situation. At the very least, this Shiva makes an effort to take said preconceptions and hit them over the head with a shovel repeatedly. Like I said, fun guy. His character arc leaves a bit to be desired. His affection for Brihaspati- while understandable- is abrupt and surprisingly out of place. Especially when it’s put in direct contrast with his rather muted relationship with Bhadra- supposedly a childhood friend and constant companion. Does not compute. 

Sati is understated, but well used. Daksha holds his own as an oblivious but well meaning ruler- he achieves just the right balance of naïve and irritating. Parvateshwar gets a lot of screen time- almost as much as Shiva, so can’t complain there. Oddly enough, my favorite character was the one who had roughly four lines of dialogue and showed up in the last thirty pages of the book- Princess Anandmayi. She was hilarious and I would have paid to see her interact more with Sati and Shiva.

There are other aspects of Shiva’s character that just sort of come and go. His family life is unknown and has been left that way. In fact, his introduction itself gives the impression of permanence- as if he has always just sort of been there. Which is a fair enough illusion to maintain, actually. My main problem is with The Incident of His Past hinted at so ominously across the book. While traumatizing, I find it a very far stretch to imply that it spurred his guilt complex so much and scarred him for the rest of his life. For God’s sake, he was barely eight. Again, does not compute. He also abandoned his decision to have a peaceful dialogue with the enemy rather quickly. Surprising, since this was his stand from the very beginning. It should take more than that to turn a man towards war.

There are minor dialogues which seem to have been airlifted off of Hollywood to give this book a more international feel. The Pandit’s call for anyone who opposes the yagna to ‘speak now or forever hold his peace’ reminded me of a Catholic Wedding. Why would anyone oppose a yagna for whatever reason? It’s a tribute to the gods- that's always a good thing. Sati’s quote of ‘come back victorious or don’t come back at all’ also brings images of Sparta(aaa!!!) to mind. It does not really correlate with the normally mild mannered Meluhans either. Although, come back with your shield or on it is just that damn classy. I’d use it too.

The crusher for this book is probably the typos. Immortals of Meluha- at least the Kindle edition- is rife with errors and typos of the worst kind. You know it’s bad when they can’t spell ‘his’ right.  Utterly inexcusable. 

All in all, a good attempt by a first time author. At best, a fantasy novel and at worst, a severely overworked plot. I place it somewhere in the middle. I’d recommend it for a light read- as long as they fix the @#$%^%& typos.

SNICKER

I had a nightmare about a spider yesterday.

This is what I found on the internet about it.

'Spiders are also a very old form of life,' says Dr Lukeman. 'One of the things they represent in dreams is something very primitive and basic - something rooted in the depth of our being, such as our mother. For someone who comes from a family where the mother was unloving , a spider can be a perfect dream symbol. The evil mother becomes an evil spider.' 

3701978+_f3040e4b04f196e34784cb5f8b31ed2d

Article Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-52177/Five-common-nightmares--mean.html

SO THIS HAPPENED....

So I woke up this morning and decided to be a travel writer.

Yep, that happened. 

I don't know how or what I'm going to do to even get started, but past experience tells me that those questions aren't really important. We'll make it work. 

I have to go now, I need to research.

I'M ON MY WAY

And there it is.

The world piles up on me, and I run to my blog. Its time for another update anyway.

So three months of living outside of a suitcase was brilliant. Turns out, I can do this. Yay me. I assembled a fantastic array of skills in these three months. I made entire meals out of tortilla wraps, cheese and oregano. I learnt that the Sacred Ibis is not a 'fucking ugly bird'. I learnt to use chopsticks. I learnt the difference between tourist food, and street food. I learnt to drive a car in a different country. I learnt to flip people off while driving in a different country. I learnt to assemble a scuba tank. I learnt that fish don't respond well to poking. And I learnt that a shipwreck is not the appropriate place to do a happy dance.

There are things that stand out about these few months. Sydney was charming in a very in your face sort of way. I'm here, I'm Sydney, get used to me. Darling Harbour was awesome for me. Any place where a guy dressed as the Green Lantern gets smacked on the arse with a paddle is my new favourite. The Blue Mountains with Sarah. Living together with Sarah, Mireille and Ruta in a one room hostel. Scrounging eight dollars for a beer. Getting a picture with a koala. Although in hindsight, the emus were my favourite. Oh the emus. They were hilarious. Of course, this was also the destination I officially became part of group 6- the best group in TDM history. That's right. I said it, bitches! 

Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai tries too hard, is what I thought. But I had my share of fun here. The cooking classes were brilliant. As were the reggae bands. I bonded a lot with Iva here. Of course, we bonded over a musician who couldn't decide which one of us he wanted. The music was brilliant though. Ain't No Sunshine, When I Come Around, No Woman No Cry- all in a fantastic Thai accent. Ignore the hookers, go for the bands is what I say.

Bali. Well, I finally did everything I wanted to in Bali. I dove down in the ocean and saw the shipwreck. I saw a sea snake, a sting ray and swam in a school of fish all in the same day. I became an open water diver. Bali is probably the place I will look back at in ten years and say 'this is where it started'.

And it has started. I just don't know where it will end. And it makes me so nervous I can almost throw up. It also makes me deliriously happy. I have been a seething mass of emotions and I really, really hope where I end up is all worth it. Because I've seen what's out there. And it doesn't get better than this.
So this post will bypass my usual spiel about all things that matter not. Instead, I'm going to touch on something that really affected me recently.

Chaing Mai, Thailand is a wonderful place and I will write in detail and perhaps more favourably about it soon.

There are things that I noticed that do... upset me, though. Tourism in Chiang Mai is not like tourism in Sydney. Which should be obvious to anyone with half a brain, of course. But there is a very subtle underlying current that is hard to catch for someone who hasn't had the opportunity to be in both places in such a short time. I suppose I see it because I was in Sydney just a week or so back. 

It's hard to describe. I suppose the easiest way to do so will be this. Sydney is a masculine destinations. The typical Western destination- it is an unpretentious, take it or leave it sort of place. It says, here is what I have, and you can decide whether you want it or not. But this is me. Salt of the earth, and not a thing more. Whether this is  true or not is not for me to decide. But that is at least in a nutshell, the cultural attitude that exists in Sydney.

Then you have Thailand. Nobody in their right mind could ever classify Thailand as a masculine destination. With its high emphasis on personal and intimate service ( and here I mean the Thai massage, not the 'Thai massage), the country of seventeen different smiles, the focus on a simple yet exotic people, the use of women in major promotional campaigns- the cultural projection is so feminine it hurts. Which is not necessarily bad everywhere. But here, its different. The economical difference between the local and the tourist leads to a very significant power difference which changes the whole paradigm. Service becomes servitude. And anyone who denies it, need only come here to see the difference. Quite simply, people here need the money more. One Euro is forty Bhat. Forty Bhat is a lot of money for a cab driver, a masseuse, a tour guide or a restaurant owner.

Let's talk about Hill Tribe Tourism. For the uninformed, tribal tourism of any sort means observing the tribes in their local environment and to learn more about their culture. The tribes are compensated in money and occupation. Its the tourism dream. Everyone wins.

Wrong.

The Lisu people have been part of this hill tribe tourism for quite a while now. They play their part as the quiet, simple nonchalant hill folk and welcome tourists in their midst. Why wouldn't they? The good people bring money to their village. The tour goes further on into the territory of the Padaung- known more famously as the Long Necked People. Out come the cameras.

How very exotic.

And this ladies and gentlemen, is where hill tribe tourism shows its true colours. Call it what you will. It is a zoo, and auction where culture is on sale to the highest bidder. Enter their houses, touch their belongings, take pictures of anything and everything...go ahead, they wont stop you. Enjoy the traditional and authentic tribal experience.

It's exotic.

Inadequate recognition by the government, no major income source and this image of the 'exotic' leaves the tribal people virtually powerless. Is it a surprise then that they are so accommodating to tourists?

Hypothetical situation: If a Lisu mother sees a tourist photographing her six year old, she may or may not like it. I certainly wouldn't. If she had any real say, she could tell him to stop and leave. But she is rendered powerless by the dollar. A dollar would pay for a few meals at the very least. She takes the money 'for her trouble' and watches in silence as the stranger continues to click pictures of her family. 

You may ask, is this so bad? Its just a picture.

Yes. But what if it becomes worse? What if, just by some strange play of chance a case emerges like the one in India a few months ago where a Jharava woman was forced to dance for tourists in exchange for food? Who will do anything about it? The government's lackadaisical response is not enough. There's your answer. Nothing can be done. The government will do nothing. They dont care. The people will do nothing. The dollar is too powerful. The hill tribe is at the mercy of the tourist's money.  

So what? They get money and after all, money is power. Maybe it will lead to progress for them.

Is that so? What power does a Paduang woman have when she is being stared at and pointed at and photographed for her appearace? What power does she have when the pictures are put on Facebook under the caption of 'exotic'. 'Exotic' becomes a polite way of saying 'freak'. Different. And different is never powerful. Never. Power comes from assimilation and acceptance. Money earned by positioning a people as 'exotic' will never enable them to progress. Because they will continue to be exotic wherever they go. They will be labelled. And so will their children. Children who were never given a chance to assimilate at all. 

I sat there and watched children dance for our amusement. Its called a 'cultural performance' in sophisticated circles. Those children should be in school. To foist the burden of cultural promotion on their shoulders is abhorrent. Culture should be a choice, not an obligation. And certainly not the means of livelihood for a ten year old. Still, we sit and let this happen.

Some say that it is both good and bad. I disagree. Tribal tourism is bad. Particularly bad, where the community in question has no power. Its not service, its servitude. Only the masters have changed. Initially, it was other people. Now its money. 
Colonialism all over again.

What am I suggesting we do? I don't know. Should this be stopped altogether? I can't say, and its not for me to say anyway. But culture for sale is wrong. Its unacceptable. The secrets of the shaman should be for those who seek them, not for tourists looking for a snapshot and a good package. 

The exploitation of a people for our entertainment is frankly, the oldest and most abhorrent practice in the world and it needs to stop. 

If you still think I'm making a mountain out of a molehill, consider the promotional picture below.

It was captioned 'Hill Tribe Kids Love to Have Fun'



 


Make up your own minds.

Image source: http://www.1stopchiangmai.com/culture/hill_tribes

SYDNEY=KINDA WIN.

Sydney, for all practical purposes does not rock. However, it does cut the mustard. 

So here we are, in a rather nice city. Nothing is more than 200 years old. So when they say 'our history' you can practically see Europeans going "Awww, they think they have history. That's so cute!"

So anyway, I have seen the major sites- The Sydney Fish Market (its hilarious that their speciality is chocolate coated strawberries), the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House, Darling Harbour, Kings Cross (grossly overrated, by the way) and a Burger King rip off known as Hungry Jacks. Also Pie Face. Do not miss out on Pie Face in Sydney. Not that you can, its everywhere.

I'm at Glebe- often pegged as an intellectual centre and glamorous suburb. Well, sure I guess. A bit of an exaggeration but there is a lot of good food, cheap at that. I also found an unpublished first draft lying about. So yeah, Glebe is one of my favourite places in Sydney. If I come back, I'd stay at Glebe again. Even if it is a fucking 20 minute walk from everything fun.

I also heard about the letter that Queen Elizabeth wrote to the Australian Public which will be opened and read out in 2085. Makes you wonder what she wanted to tell them that had to wait till she was dead and gone.

'Dear Australia,
Just FYI - you're sitting on a mine field. Oh and we sold you off to Canada.
Hope that's okay.
Sincerely
The Queen'.


Oh, and there's also the fireworks show and the Mardi Gras parade...all happening this weekend and the next. I am still dying to see a platypus. That's right. Not a koala or a kangaroo. I want to see a platypus. I'm crazy like that, bitches.

The most hilarious part for me is a little piece of land somewhere in the area of the Rocks which is technically still pasture land. So you're allowed to graze cattle and sheep there. Well, that's supremely helpful. I should get some classmates shit faced, find them a couple of sheep and set them on pasture land just for fun. I'd love to see the police handle that...

Oh and the beaches are nice. Crazy waves aside, Manly is a fine place to spend a day. Bondi, still have to go. I'm sure it's all good though. Also a must see, Darling Harbour every Saturday night- fireworks and street artists. Good looking street artists. Plus you always have fun drunks about. Not the crazy ones who haunt Kings Cross. The good natured, I love the universe types. I saw a guy dressed up as Green Lantern being spanked out on the Harbour front.

Ok, so maybe some crazy ones... 

The markets are all right. Paddington is overrated and exorbitant. Glebe market is a good place to spend a few hours. And a few hundreds. But that's Sydney.

All in all, its a really nice place. If it wasn't so expensive, it would be amazing.

Ah well, can't have it all I suppose.

LEAVING SOON

So, I leave for Sydney in three days.

Whoa.

You know, about eight months ago I couldn't even dream that I would be doing this. That I would be living on my own, and pretty successfully except for some ridiculous bad luck with pick pockets which frankly, I give up on.

Other than that, I have managed haven't I? I can cook, I have backpacked across Europe, I have been to  concerts and music festivals, finally conquered that silly little smoking hang up and I have met people from so many places that I can't even keep count any more...it's been a period of amazing growth. And I wonder if I am the same person I was before. Surely not, because that person seems like someone so far away now. So very far away.

As do others. But that's all right. With time, I suppose. 

I'm closer to my family now, but very far away from my dreams of drawing a steady pay check and diving. Hopefully, one day I'll do both. Hopefully. Fingers crossed, I say.

Breda has been great and I'll be sorry to leave. That's how it is though.

So here I go. Sydney, Bali and Chiang Mai.   

It's quite a ride.


U U NO GUYS: MY COLLECTION

Best Meme Ever.

There are good ones out there- I took an Arrow in the Knee, Philosoraptor, Hipster Ariel...but Y U NO Guy is Legendary. So here's my collection of Y U NOs. Because I love him!







WHAT I DID NOT KNOW ABOUT SUPERMAN

Superman was originally a villain? Who knew, eh?

Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (illustrations) in 1932, 'The Reign of Superman' pulls an early Frankenstein with Professor Ernest Smalley pulling unremarkable Bill Dunn out of a breadline with promises of a real meal if he participates in an experiment. The long and short of it is that he manages to give Dunn super powers and he goes- to cliché it up a notch- mad with power. Dunn kills Smalley and starts a crime spree of his own. Unfortunately, the powers were temporary and he eventually loses them. Dunn then returns to the breadline- forgotten and unremarkable as ever.


Now that's a story. Unfortunately, it was a one shot wonder and made an appearance in a relatively modest science fiction magazine at the time.

The character was rewritten as the noble embodiment of all that is good and awesome and slightly nauseating in 1933 and made his first real appearance in 1938 thanks to DC Comics. Of course, they also fired Siegel and Shuster in 1946 and removed their names and credit as the creators of Superman, but that's the business eh?

Anyway long story short, Superman is now a little bit more interesting.

Another... amusing facet of his history? He didn't particularly appeal to the Nazi's.

Here are some excerpts from the translated version of the article "Jerry Siegel Attacks" archived from Das schwarze Korps (The SS Newspaper). Call it Nazi War Propaganda, popular opinion of the time or a good old fashioned hissy-fit. The purpose and intent of the article is irrelevant for this post. The author only intends to bring to light the comic element of absurdity by the quoting of the article.

The excerpts of the article are quoted, exactly as they were found: 

"Jerry Siegel, an intellectually and physically circumcised chap who has his headquarters in New York, is the inventor of a colorful figure with an impressive appearance, a powerful body, and a red swim suit who enjoys the ability to fly through the ether. The inventive Israelite named this pleasant guy with an overdeveloped body and underdeveloped mind “Superman.” He advertised widely Superman’s sense of justice, well-suited for imitation by the American youth."

"On this page we present you with several particularly unusual examples of his activities. We see Superman, lacking all strategic sense and tactical ability, storming the West Wall in shorts. We see several German soldiers in a bunker, who in order to receive the American guest have borrowed old uniforms from a military museum. Their faces express at once both desperation and cheerfulness."

"We see this bicepped wonder in a rather odd pose, bending the barrels of Krupp guns like spaghetti. “Concrete can’t stop me,” he shouts in another picture as he knocks the tops off pill boxes like overripe tomatoes. His true strength only shows itself in flight, however. He leaps into the air to tear the propeller from a passing German airplane."

"A triumphant final frame shows Superman, the conquerer of death, dropping in at the headquarters of the chatterboxes at the League of Nations in Geneva. Although the rules of the establishment probably prohibit people in bathing suits from participating in their deliberations, Superman ignores them as well as the other laws of physics, logic, and life in general. He brings with him the evil German enemy along with Soviet Russia.

Well, we really ought to ignore these fantasies of Jerry Israel Siegel, but there is a catch. The daring deeds of Superman are those of a Colorado beetle. He works in the dark, in incomprehensible ways. He cries “Strength! Courage! Justice!” to the noble yearnings of American children. Instead of using the chance to encourage really useful virtues, he sows hate, suspicion, evil, laziness, and criminality in their young hearts.

Woe to the American youth, who must live in such a poisoned atmosphere and don’t even notice the poison they swallow daily."

And that's how much Superman pissed off the Nazis. 

Respect.

Disclaimer:

The quoted article is part of  the German Propaganda Archive- property of Professor Randall Bytwerk, Communications Arts and Sciences, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. The sources for the article and the comic in questions are given below. The excerpts have been extracted for the sake of clarity and length and have not been changed or tampered with. No monetary benefit is being derived via this post.   

Sources:

Comic:
"How Superman Will End the War"; German Propaganda Archive, Retrieved from Look

http://www.archive.org/stream/HowSupermanWouldEndTheWar/look#page/n1/mode/2up

Article:
'Jerry Siegel Attacks"; German Propaganda Archive, Retrieved from 
Das schwarze Korps (25 April 1940, page 8) http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/superman.htm

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AN INDIAN ABROAD

You don't even like curry but someone calls it a 'kind of spice' and you're foaming at the mouth and ready to kill. How dare you...

Your national anthem is suddenly the best one ever written, even though you can't remember all the words.

You are suddenly the International Promotional Representative for the Taj Mahal. 

Rajesh Koothrapali and Russell Peters are the most important people in the entire universe. 

Naveen Andrews is not. We deny spawning that. Not ours, thank you.

Your British classmate is suddenly an 'evil colonialist'.

You regularly say 'alsjeblieft' to your sister back home because you just know it will piss her off.

You find yourself vehemently denying the whole head bobbing thing. 

You're suddenly checking every Bollywood film to see if we actually do the head bobbing thing.

Curse creation and all that's it encompasses when you find that yes in fact, we do the head bobbing thing. A lot.

You find yourself informing everyone and anyone that Bollywood and South Cinema are two very different things. Not that you should have to, because they are (as mentioned several times) very fucking different.

You learn to ride a bicycle and hope to hell your friends at home never find out.

You still find it hysterical that a single 50 Euro note will get you a month's worth of groceries. 

You firmly believe that it should be illegal for it to be this cold.

You are constantly preening about the fact that your English is superior to some of your lecturers. 

You still find it unbelievable that your teachers like to be questioned and actually think its necessary to answer you.

You find yourself utterly horrified at the idea of an exam resit even though logically, you know that it is NOT the same thing as failing.

You think its sacrilege that just passing the exam is more than enough. At home, 99.97 percentile does not get you into the top MBA schools.

You are still convinced that the dryer will burn your laundry if it's left in for too long. The sun is good enough for us, thank you.

When someone asks you how you like the food in Europe, you rear back like an enraged wildebeest and and inform them that you would gladly kill for a single serving of malai kofta.

You have yet to successfully explain to your friends back home why and how Belgium and the Netherlands are different. Try it, I dare you.

Slumdog Millionaire is a phenomenally realistic and gritty metaphor for a young, struggling and dynamic India which is rising from the ashes like a phoenix. That's our story and we're sticking to it.

Your name is suddenly way too long. Two syllables should be enough, Mum and Dad.

Yes, I call my parents Mum and Dad. You can ask them.

You have at least once told a Non Indian one or all of these things:

1. You are engaged to be married to a Rajasthani Maharaja whom you have never seen before
2. Pre marital sex is punishable by death in India 
3. You have a pet cow named Adam
(I really miss Hit Mornings with Sarthak)

You now find it necessary to clarify that none of these things is true. Except the first one. That's happening.

McDonalds is no longer the wonderful place it used to be. There is no Maharaja Mac or Paneer Salsa Wrap in Europe.

It is important to clarify that Gandhi did not smoke weed. That was Bob Marley. We are not amused.

You find yourself vehemently denying that cows roam the streets of the Nation's Capital. Then you congratulate yourself on how good you've become at lying through your teeth.

You are now aware that Europe is more than just Italy, Spain, France and Switzerland. Bulgaria is an actual country, not a made up word you found in Harry Potter.

When people ask you what your name means, you absolutely love saying "Oh, its too too complicated to explain if you don't know about India's culture." You're very lucky no one has strangled you yet.